What to have for dinner is an especially difficult question for families with food allergies, and attempting to cook separate meals for different family members can be overwhelming.
The best solution, though a bit labor-intensive to begin with, is advance menu planning. Even for parents who are not organization-prone, planning one to four weeks worth of dinners - plus breakfasts and lunches, if desired - will reduce mealtime stress in the long run, and ensure the family is well fed.
Here are a few tips from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America to smooth the menu planning process:
- Start With Seven. If new to advance menu planning, start by organizing a week’s worth of simple evening meals such as one-pot dinners plus a side salad, or a hearty soup and bread combo. Stick to recipes you know, and find new ones that are easy to prepare.
Right Focus. Focus on foods the family can eat, especially if multiple food allergies are involved. For instance, if one family member is allergic to eggs and milk, and another cannot eat fish, concentrate on creating meals with fruits, grains, veggies, poultry, meats, and legumes.
Use And Repeat. As you write down each evening’s meal choices, list the groceries that need to be purchased on a separate shopping list. Doing this for four weeks will give you a month of dinners and shopping lists that you can simply repeat, occasionally substituting-in new menu ideas to keep things fresh.
Mix It Up. Make sure there’s plenty of variety in each weekly menu, such as having burgers on Monday, a pasta dish on Tuesday, poultry on Wednesday, a bean dish on Thursday, and so on. Use different cooking methods to prepare meats, such as grilling, baking, stir-frying, or roasting, especially if your safe protein sources are limited. Experiment with different seasonings, and food combinations.
Bulk Up. Simplify grocery shopping by purchasing items in bulk from wholesale stores, or co-ops. Check out the grocery offerings on Amazon, or other online stores, and have some staples shipped right to the kitchen door.
Explore Resources. Explore the Internet for allergy-safe recipes, and maybe invest in a few food allergy cookbooks. Look through old recipes, keeping those that can be made safe with minor alterations.
Organization can save us not only work, but worry. There is a place in all our lives for spontaneity, but living with food allergies requires planning and diligence to minimize anxiety, and maximize safety.
Source: AAFA/Kids With Food Allergies